The Republik was getting very near to its destination. It was now in the Gulf of Mexico headed for the port city of New Orleans. The ship had already been at sea for a little over two months. Then, six days before the end of the voyage, the first and only death on the Republik took place. That death took place on January 6, 1839. Friedrich Gottlieb Mueller, a young man who had celebrated his 19th birthday just six days earlier, succumbed to what has been described as a severe cold. He was buried at sea.
Friedrich Gottlieb was the son of Johann Christian and Maria Christiana (Mueller) Mueller. Yes, this is another case of a Mueller marrying a Mueller. This family was coming to America with seven of their children. We have written on several occasions about another son from this family who came to be known as Alphabet Mueller (Rev. J.A.F.W. Mueller) who was the first graduate of Concordia Seminary in Altenburg. There is another story we wrote a while back about a possible son who was left in Germany so that, just in case the family perished on this voyage, a remnant of this family would survive. That story is told in Another Mueller Mystery Solved.
Johann Christian and one of his sons, also named Johann Christian, were tile and brick makers. The son carried with him the nickname of “Ziegel”, which in German means tiler or brickmaker. In this early hand drawn map, brick yards are shown in the Dresden area, near where the Log Cabin College was built. I am convinced this is the location where these Muellers set up their brick and tile making business.
Back to the Republik. The sixth of January must have been a sad day aboard that ship. The pastor on board was Rev. Gotthold Loeber, who had just celebrated his birthday on January 5th. Now a day later, he is performing a funeral service in the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure most, if not all, of those on board attended this service on the deck of the ship. Then at the culmination of this service, those people had to watch the body of Friedrich Gottlieb being dropped overboard into the Gulf. That had to be an image that would forever stick in their memories.
When Rev. Loeber began his church records for the Altenburg congregation, he included the death of Friedrich Gottlieb. In fact, this record is not only the first death record to be found, but it is also the first record of any sort.
Our museum has a family history of this Mueller clan in its collection. This history was originally compiled by Arnold Mueller.
In that history, you will find the following quotation about the death of Friedrich Gottlieb:
“One of the sons, Friedrich Gottlieb, died enroute of a severe cold, and was buried in the Gulf of Mexico. I was ignorant of this until our good friend Gustave Polack asked Hilda and me one day ‘whether we knew that an ancestor was buried in the Gulf of Mexico.’
We can picture the heartache of our great-great-grandparents and their children as they committed the body of their loved one to a watery grave, but ‘In the blessed hope of a joyful resurrection and reunion in heaven.’ I expect to talk to Friedrick Gottlieb when I meet him in the presence of Jesus, our Savior.”